Highlanders enter self-isolation

More information about the future of the Super Rugby competition may come to light in the next couple of days, but it will have little impact on the immediate future for the Highlanders, who flew back into Dunedin yesterday.

The 36 members of the Highlanders touring squad came in two groups after the party had to be split on to separate flights.

Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown and inside back Josh Ioane arrive at Dunedin Airport yesterday. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Highlanders assistant coach Tony Brown and inside back Josh Ioane arrive at Dunedin Airport yesterday. Photo: Gregor Richardson
The 27 players and nine members of the management hopped into vans and then the majority of them went to their own homes, where they would begin 14 days of self-isolation.

A few others who were not living with family have moved into other accommodation.

After more than 18 hours of travel, leaving Buenos Aires at noon [NZ time] on Monday, the first batch of players looked a tired bunch on arrival in Dunedin, just after 9am yesterday.

The players will still be able to train, but by themselves, and that will not be allowed to take place in a public area.

The Highlanders were due to take on the Lions this Saturday at Forsyth Barr Stadium and then play the Crusaders the following week, but those games have been postponed. The team then has a bye under the current draw, so would not play again until April 10, taking on the Chiefs under the roof.

Sanzaar suspended the competition on Sunday after the New Zealand Government slapped a 14-day lockdown rule on all people coming back into the country after 1am on Monday. That has since been replicated by Australia.

The competition is on hold and when it returns and in what form is up in the air.

Gatherings of more than 500 have been banned by both countries.

Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos had indicated the competition would have to start some time in April to avoid being called off completely. A re-designed competition involving play between teams in their conferences may be the best option for teams and broadcasters. Community rugby has been delayed in New Zealand until April 18, so it is hard to envisage Super Rugby restarting before then.

The Highlanders still have seven of their eight derby games to play. Broadcasters will be keen to get some product on their screens.

It will be hard for the Highlanders to come back in any sort of shape to play. Two weeks away from each other means two weeks of no contact work.

The other New Zealand teams are treating the week as a bye, but are expected to come back together next week.

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